Important Cultural Property
Wood with polychromy
Heian or Kamakura period/12th century
Nara National Museum
This is the image of Zochoten or Nanpoten who is a deity or a guardian of the southern quarter among Shitenno (four deities protecting the gates at the four directions of heaven) images, which were originally handed down to Hokuendo, Kofukuji Temple. However, the provenance of Hokuendo is doubtful and the true place of origin is unknown. Among the four deities, the Komokuten image is still owned by Kofukuji Temple, this image (Zochoten) and the Tamonten image are in this museum's possession and the Jikokuten image is possessed by the MIHO MUSEUM. This image represents Zochoten raising his right arm with a ji (his symbol) in his right hand. With his left hand on his hips, he twist his hips leftward and presses down on an evil spirit with his right foot on its head and his left foot on its back. While it cannot be denied that the physical dynamism is slightly repressed, his frowning, threatening facial expression with an open mouth and a fierce look is quite powerful. Despite the armor he wears, it can be clearly seen that he has a big-boned physique with firm muscles. The feeling of heavy massiveness or the weighty tone this image exudes suggests that the traditional massive expression was preserved and maintained by the sculptors of Buddha images in Nara even in the late Heian period. Such a massive expression is common to the expression of the Tamonten (1159) and Jikokuten (1178) images of Todaiji Temple (1159), which were originally handed down to Uchiyama Eikyuji Temple. Moreover, it is similar to the expression of the Shitenno images placed in the Karikondo of Kofukuji Temple, which are estimated to have been created to commemorate the recovery of Nanendo of Kofukuji Temple (1189) after the Jisho fire (1180). This image constitutes part of the group of Shitenno images of Kofukuji Temple that was formed over the period from the end of the Heian period to the early Kamakura period. There are different views as to the creation year of this image: while some say that this was created in the mid-Heian period (eleventh century), others insist on the early Kamakura period (late twelfth century). However, they all agree that it was created by a sculptor in Nara.